By Ben Gruber
The duck stamp is coming to Stevens Point.
In just a few days, wildlife artists from around the country will gather in Stevens Point to submit entries, hoping to have their art grace the annual Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp. This year the contest is being hosted by the College of Natural Resources at UW-Stevens Point, visiting Wisconsin for the first time.
First thing first though, what is the federal duck stamp? I would venture to guess that even waterfowl hunters who are required to buy it do not even really know what it is, and everyone in the country who hunts migratory waterfowl is required to purchase one for $25.
It is yet another great conservation success voluntarily implemented by hunters first in 1934. All money from the sale of the stamp goes into the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund, specifically managed to fund the acquisition of habitat. Out of every dollar, 98 cents goes directly to purchasing land or acquiring easements to land. Since its inception in 1934, more than 5.7 million acres have been purchased with the stamp revenues, and 300 national wildlife refuges have been created or expanded.
The stamp is sold at any post office and also at Wisconsin DNR license agents. The artwork is always beautiful, and if you count my “junk drawer” as a collection, then I collect them.
Like I said, every hunter of migratory waterfowl in the U.S. is required to purchase one every year. I would make a very strong case that anyone who enjoys bird watching, public land, clean water, or any hunting should buy one as well. The wetlands protected by stamp dollars provide habitat for all species while at the same time reducing flooding, increasing clean water, and bringing in tourism dollars.
In 2012 — the most recent numbers available — there were 1.5 million stamps purchased with 64,000 of those coming from Wisconsin. If you think that is a lot, consider that in 1971 there were 2.4 million stamps purchased with 152,000 coming from our state.
If you ever wonder why it is a bad thing that hunter numbers are declining, if we got 1970s-level purchases today, that would be an additional $22.5 million going toward wetland habitat. Buy the darn stamp, and buy some as gifts for Christmas.
Back to this contest at UW-Stevens Point. On Sept. 15-16, entries will be on display from numerous renowned wildlife artists from across the country. Judging takes place over two days, and there will also be a duck decoy carving contest hosted by the Wisconsin Waterfowl Association at the same time. I am looking forward to having this in our backyard, and I cannot wait to go check it out. You can find the schedule and more information by going to uwsp.edu and searching for “Federal Duck Stamp Contest.”
I have my duck stamp for the year, and I will spend plenty of time on land that has directly benefitted from the stamp. The Horicon Marsh, Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, and the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife Refuge are all places I will do my best to hunt, and in October I will be hunting waterfowl production areas in North Dakota. Stop at the post office and get yours.
Ben Gruber can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.